Making my YouTube Channel an Accessible Resource for Young People.

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July 29, 2020

Who are you and what kind of content do you create?

My name is Rosie Crawford and I graduated from the University of Oxford with a degree in BA Archaeology and Anthropology in 2019. I started my Youtube Channel alongside my degree in order to document my time there. I wanted to provide a free, accessible resource for young people across the world to learn about Oxford and get some tips for applying to university, as I felt like this would’ve really helped me when I applied. My channel and Instagram blog is largely designed to inspire young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who wouldn’t have necessarily considered Oxford or have anyone at home to talk to about it. 

Since graduating from university, I have been working full-time as a teaching assistant. Before, I was uploading 1 video per week. These videos most commonly documented my application to postgraduate school but some were still focused on helping students navigate applying to undergraduate degrees. Now, I have started uploading 3 times per week. For the first time since starting my channel, I have essentially been able to do YouTube “full-time”. I don’t know how long this will be feasible but I will definitely be continuing my channel as a side-hustle and predominantly a ‘uni-vlog’ channel once I start my Master’s degree at Cranfield University in September 2020. 

Whilst my channel is named after myself, my brand name is actually JustALittleRoo. This is what appears on my logo and channel art and is the handle for my Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok accounts. I initially came up with this name because I am a small individual and my nickname at the time was Roo - not very exciting I know. However, once at Oxford University, I decided to keep the name because I felt like it carried a lot more meaning; I was just a little Roo in a very big, strange and new world.

My channel art

Let's go down memory lane, tell us your backstory! 

Back in December 2014, I decided that I would start a food blog. In February 2015, having saved up money from my 4 part-time jobs, I bought a Canon EOS 100d - the cheapest DSLR I could find - because I was keen to have my photos look as professional as possible. I created recipes and shared vibrant images of the food I made alongside the recipes. This Instagram account was where JustALittleRoo began. It was just a little old me with a camera and my meals.

I officially uploaded my first videos in 2015. They were cooking and baking videos and a few singing covers - nothing to do with my brand now. Some of these videos (this one for example) are still up because watching them makes me happy; they’re not great quality or very well edited but they are memories I cherish. My first video to get a lot of attention was the vlog of my Oxford interviews. I had never seen a vlog of the interview experience before and I thought that people would be really interested to see what happens. The positive response to this video is what also inspired me to vlog once I got to university. As my YouTube channel evolved into a study channel, as did my Instagram blog. I think this was only natural given my life at uni was 90% studying. 

As I briefly touched on earlier, my current style channel was designed to be a free online access resource for disadvantaged students applying to university. I wasn’t really inspired by anyone, in particular, to make this channel, in fact, I was inspired by the fact that no one was doing it already (that I knew of at the time). I wanted to create a space where young people could learn about life at Oxford and listen to the experiences of someone from a similar background to them: someone who perhaps doesn’t have the support or expertise to apply to Oxford at home or at school. Upon reaching 50 subscribers, and after uploading my first Oxford related video whilst being a student, I uploaded a ‘Day in the Life’ video documenting a typical day at Oxford University. This video gained 10,000 views in under a week and my subscribers jumped by 1000 at the same time. This response to my channel was heartwarming and showed that Youtube was the perfect place for university outreach. It was super encouraging to know that I was helping people to envisage themselves at top universities because they had watched my videos. Whilst my channel hasn’t grown very quickly, I have never thought about throwing in the towel. For me, views, subscribers, and revenue aren’t what’s important. My channel was made to help people and it will continue to do so - as long as the process is making me happy - regardless of how many people it reaches. 

How do you brainstorm ideas for your content and your advice in getting the creative juice flowing.

I didn’t use to really plan my videos and if I did, it wasn’t to the extent that I do now. I think (hope) you can see this in the progression of video quality on my channel. When I was first starting out I had so many big ideas and not a lot of free time. I was very scattered in my thoughts and would have several half ideas on the go at once. Over the past 4 years of having my channel, I haven’t been completely consistent but I have learned the importance of really planning out videos so that when I do post, they are truly helpful and enjoyable. 

My notes page on my phone is full of ideas and single sentence soundbites that seem to emerge to the front of my brain before falling asleep. I then look back at what I’ve written in the morning and properly plan a full video in my trusty notebook. Planning in a physical notebook is definitely more beneficial than doing it digitally in my eyes. You can really sprawl out your ideas and subsequently tie things together on the page, eventually coming up with a useful and sequential plan. 

I rarely get a mental block when coming up with ideas because my content is so varied. As a StudyTube channel I have the breadth to film both vlogs and sit-down videos so mixing up these styles helps me to maintain a good flow of content ideas. If I do get stuck for sit-down video themes though, I brainstorm all the things I wish I’d known before going to university or the things I struggle with when studying. All of my videos and advice within them are based on personal experience, so really sitting down to think about what I would’ve liked to know at 16-18 really helps me come up with content. Asking my viewers is also always an option too. I like to keep engagement up and interaction with my audience is something I really enjoy, so asking them what it is they really want to see always works too. 

What are the tools and platforms you use to help with your brand?

I started out editing my videos with Windows Movie Maker because it was free on my family laptop. In 2016 I was given my own budget HP laptop for my birthday and used this to edit throughout university. This laptop was good enough for editing on Windows Movie Maker, but when I decided to upgrade my editing and pay for software, I realised it became very slow and would crash often. The software I paid for was Wondershare Filmora, in 2018. I had become frustrated that I couldn’t edit like other creators but also had a very low budget as a student. Consequently Filmora was an excellent option; it only cost £40 for a lifetime license and I still use it today. I did decide to upgrade my laptop in November 2019 to one more suited to editing. I now have an HP Envy 360 with Ryzen 5 (a gaming graphics card). This works very well and, as it was the Black Friday sales, was still half the price of a MacBook.

I edit all of my Instagram blog photos on the Adobe Lightroom mobile app or the free version of VSCO. For my thumbnails, I use and the PicsArt app to make cut-outs. 

What were your fears starting out? How did you handle it? 

When I first started my Youtube channel, posting foodie content, I was in Sixth Form so I was a bit apprehensive as to what my friends would think. I don’t think I ever explicitly told them I was uploading to Youtube - I just happened to share it on my Instagram and people found out from that. I never got ‘hate’ from the people I went to Sixth Form with. Banter: sure. Not hate. I guess people might have spoken about me behind my back but, if I’m being honest, this doesn’t bother me. If I’m doing something that makes me happy, helps other people, and my closest friends/family support me, why should I care what insignificant people think? 

In terms of negative comments, I didn’t really receive any until my ‘Day in the Life of an Oxford Student’ video blew up - so to speak. I started getting comments from what appeared to mostly be adult men saying that I was ‘another stupid girl on the internet’ and a ‘dozy cow’ - this one’s a personal favourite. Derogatory comments about my appearance began around then too but that would never stop me as I’m not on the internet for my appearance, I have my platforms to help with university access. On the whole, though, these comments make up about 1% of all of them and it’s very important not to highlight them in your mind and allow them to overshadow the hundreds of positive comments. This is a skill I’ve learned during my time as a creator, and one that I think is equally important for life in general too. 

How did you build your brand to where it is now, take us through your process.

I don’t know if I would consider my platforms a ‘brand’. This was never the intention anyway. They are me. They are my experiences in written and creative form and always will be. Yes, I have slotted into a niche - and generally stick to it in terms of content - but I also upload other videos that simply make me happy. 

As a minimum, I try to upload once per week, or at least 1 study related video per week, as this is my niche. I may upload 2 videos, with one being non-study related and my audience seems to like a bit of variety now and again. I feel like I’m at that lovely stage with my channel where my subscribers watch my videos for me and not necessarily just for study content, though that will always (at least for the foreseeable future) be an integral part of my channel. For anyone thinking of starting a Youtube channel, I would say that keeping a consistent schedule and style is key for initially gaining a subscriber base. 

For someone who wants to get into content creation, what is your advice?

Don’t think too much about what your niche or brand needs to be initially. Trust me when I say that if you aren’t enjoying your content creation there is no point in doing it.

Make things that excite you and inspire you to keep going.

Because Youtube doesn’t pay well unless you’ve really taken off (watch: how much I earn from adsense). Chances are, you will fall into a niche or type naturally this way, and it may take time but all good things take time. Youtube isn’t a quick fix. 

If I was to start over, I would put more time into creating a logo and colour scheme earlier. And stick with it. In my earlier videos you can see so many different logos, intro songs and, while actually it’s nice to look back and see how far I’ve come, I think being a bit more professional earlier on may have helped me reach more people quicker. 

Consistency = Your best friend.

Tell us your best milestones in being a content creator.

I think my first real ‘milestone’ was seeing how well received my first university vlog was. Going from 50 subscribers to 1000 in a week was a huge shock and pushed me to make more and more videos. 

Another milestone for me was posting a video about my Oxford University story.  I’m still extremely proud of it because I talk about my mental health during Sixth Form, which is something I rarely do. This video is also in a ‘draw my life’ style and I think it’s really well made - if I do say so myself. 

I’d be lying if I didn’t say hitting 10,000 subscribers was a huge milestone too! This only happened last month, and for a creator who’s been working consistently for 5 years, it felt like a long time coming. 

What are your marketing strategies to grow your brand?

I don’t really have any because I don’t see my channel as a brand. I guess just keeping things consistent but also only making content that makes me feel good. My audience will be able to tell if my heart isn’t in it and I think that makes content less engaging, plus I don’t want to be doing something I don’t really enjoy. 

I do all of my planning, filming, editing, and PR myself and that is what I love: my channel is me and that is what I love about it. 

In March 2020 I joined a second, collaborative channel called The StudyTube Project, which has given me a lot more exposure and helped my channel to grow more substantially in the last few months. 

How do you handle brand deals and sponsorships? 

I have only ever reached out to brands a couple of times, and this was just to ask for gifted protein products in exchange for Instagram stories and product placement in a Youtube video - random I know. I’ve never thought about reaching out to bigger brands. Maybe I should. 

Working with brands is easily one of the hardest parts of being a smaller creator. The first task being deciding on the appropriateness of sharing specific brands on your platform. Things you should think about are: 

Do they match my niche?

Will my audience like them? (a brand may not fit your niche but your audience may still love or benefit from the product - just try and keep mostly to your niche or brand placements will look forced)

Are they legitimate? Look into the company - do they have a professional-looking website or social media presence? Check the legitimacy of email accounts.

Are they ethical? This one is down to personal preference and morals but I think ethics are super important. 

Once you’ve established whether a brand is someone you’d like to work with, comes the tricky task of working out what you will get in return. NB: Free products are not worth your time unless you really want that product - on that note when asked to do gifted collaborations I always check the cost of the product and suggest they pay the difference between my feature fee and how much the product costs (it has generally worked for me).

When asking for payment I am forever stuck between “Do I ask for x amount of money and risk them ghosting me” and “No, Rosie, know your worth and ask for that coin!”. Asking for money is a very difficult thing to do but you just have to remember that you are asking for money in exchange for a service and exposure for that brand. No one is just giving it to you. I think a big piece of advice that I would give to other smaller creators is to never ask for something less than minimum wage - living wage is better in areas where living costs are higher. If you wouldn’t legally be allowed to work for a company for a certain amount per hour, the same should still stand with content creation. 

Tip: when a brand approaches you, ask if they have a budget and a time frame before stating your own creator fees. This way, you can see what they really are asking of you and how much they believe your time is worth. If they come back with a figure you aren’t happy with or turn the question back on you, work out how many hours you believe you will spend on their task and multiply it by the local legal minimum or living wage where you are - there’s your fee (add a little for good luck if you’re feeling confident).  If they didn’t believe that sharing their name on your platform was worth their time, they wouldn’t have messaged you in the first place so your job is to make sure that THEY are worth YOUR time. 

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